I had the privilege of attending the wedding of a good friend of mine this last weekend. It was a beautiful wedding with beautiful music and a beautiful wedding. Beauty was just oozing from every nook and cranny and every fold of fabric. The pipe organ was blasting beauty as delicately as beauty can be blasted. I think you get the picture.
It was also a quite small wedding. There may have been 100 guests. Everyone had been ushered toward the front of a small cathedral church that may hold a little over 200 people. The bride's family sitting cozily shoulder-to-shoulder on one side, and the groom's family lounging comfortably more spread out on the other, it was obvious who was from this area.
There was no incense at this Mass, so the only smell was the perfume and cologne of all those duded up, and the overwhelming smell of eucalyptus and menthol from the lozenge in my mouth. Out of respect for the solemnity of the occasion I was trying very hard to stifle the cough that I had picked up days earlier.
The pipe organ erupted with a great belch of some major chord, and then quickly toned back on the volume as the bridal party and ministers processed in. Everyone took their places in the sanctuary. We were ready and anxious. "Here she comes. Is she coming now? Where is she? Is that her? I think that's her. There she is!" I thought as the music changed.
Then it hit me. I was no longer looking at her. I mean, I was looking right at her, but it was not her that I was seeing. She was, to me, an image. You see, as Catholics we have this beautiful tradition of theological language, and 'image' is one of these words that has a specific meaning. For this reason, some theologians tend not to translate the Latin term 'imago' into English. Theologians like to throw around the term 'imago Dei' (image of God) when talking about man's dignity. Image, then, might need some clarification.
When we talk about man being made in the image of God, we, as Catholics, are not saying that man looks like God. As far as I understand Mormonism, that is something that they would claim, for God was once a man like us. In Mormonism, God is a material being. In Catholicism, however, God is immaterial, with the exception of His hypostatic union. So, we can say this: God the Father is immaterial and divine; God the Holy Spirit is immaterial and divine; God the Son is fully divine and fully human with no mixing of the two and is therefore immaterial in His divinity and material in His humanity.
Since, however, Christ's materiality takes place in time, and it takes place after the creation of the world and the formation man from the earth and the creation of his soul by God's breath, we ought not to attribute man's image to Christ's humanity. Furthermore, we ought not to attribute man's image to the earth from which he was taken. Rather, if we are looking for a place wherein the image value may reside, our best bet is in man's soul. For God's breath (which can be translated as spirit) is life itself, and man's animating principle (anima or soul) is the very Spirit of God. "Then the LORD God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being" (Gen. 2:7).
Man is more like God in his soul than in his body. So, man as an image of God, must image Him in his soul, and in fact, he does (CCC 356-361, 363). This, however, is not to say that man's body and his soul are two totally separate things. They are not. The soul is the principle of life of the body. Another way to say this is if you want to see the soul, look at a living body.
The soul images God in as much as it is capable of self-knowledge, self-possession, and of freely entering into communion with other persons. In this way man is more like God than any other material being. For this reason, man is called image. An image therefore is a most perfect likeness to something prior. A portrait and a stick figure are likenesses to a person. The portrait, however, is more perfect and therefore is an image. Symbols too can be images. For example, the cross, which is so closely bound up in Christ's crucifixion, is an image of Christ Himself. It is a less perfect image than a crucifix, but no doubt calls to mind and represents Christ and no one else.
Now, back to my original point. I was no longer seeing the bride. She was for me an image. An image of what you may ask? "Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, "Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them" (Rev 21:1-3).
It is because God wants to be with us. He wants live with us and love us and us to love Him. He wants to be our Bridegroom and we to be His bride. In Baptism we are betrothed to Him. In Confirmation we are married to Him. In the Eucharist we consummate that marriage, and that consummation is fecund. It is life-giving. Matrimony does not start imaging this dynamic at the wedding Mass. It begins with the courtship. It only becomes apparent, at least... It did not become apparent to me till I saw this bride adorned for her husband.
Tell me about your favorite wedding experience and how it affects you in the comment box below.